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ACLED Regional Overview - South America (13 August - 9 September 2022)

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Over the past month in South America, Argentinian Vice President Cristina Kirchner escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt in front of her house in Buenos Aires. In Colombia, social leaders and members of vulnerable groups, especially Indigenous communities, continued to be targeted and killed by armed groups. In Chile, riots were reported after voters overwhelmingly rejected the new constitution, with students also rioting over educational-related demands. Indigenous militia activity also continued at high levels in the southern regions. In Bolivia, coca leaf farmers violently seized and destroyed a parallel coca market in La Paz, following weeks of demonstrations and clashes with police forces. In Venezuela, nationwide protests took place over demands related to decreasing salaries and the rising cost of living. Finally, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro participated in several Independence Day military parades across the country on 7 September, while violence increased in Tocantins state.

In Argentina, a Brazilian-Argentinian armed man carried out a failed assassination attempt on Vice President Kirchner in Buenos Aires on 1 September. The perpetrator pointed a gun at Kirchner from close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun failed to fire. The attack happened after Kirchner stepped out of her car to greet hundreds of supporters, including students, who had been camping in front of her house to protest against the corruption charges she faces (Reuters, 2 September 2022). Protesters and security guards immobilized the man, who was arrested. Following the attack, civil society organizations and political parties staged protests across the country to repudiate the assassination attempt.

In Colombia, at least 14 social leaders were killed across the country over the past month, including four in the Valle del Cauca department and three in the Antioquia department. Notably, Gulf Clan members abducted and shot dead the president of the Council of Communal Action (JAC) around 19 August in Segovia municipality, Antioquia. On 6 September, a woman teacher and social leader was shot and killed by unidentified armed individuals while teaching a class in Guanabanal city, Valle del Cauca.

Meanwhile, members of vulnerable groups, particularly Indigenous communities, continued to be targeted by armed groups. Over the past month, six Indigenous people were killed in Putumayo, three in Nariño, three in Cauca, and two in Guaviare departments, with individuals also killed in Amazonas, Caquetá, and La Guajira departments. Although the perpetrators are unknown for most of these cases, the Border Command (CDF) was responsible for the Putumayo killings, while the National Liberation Army (ELN) claimed responsibility for the Cauca killings. In the Putumayo department, CDF members shot and killed six Nasa and Awa Indigenous men. Their bodies were found days later in three separate locations. The perpetrators left pamphlets next to the bodies accusing the victims of alleged collaboration with a rival Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, 23 August 2022). The CDF (Comandos de la Frontera, in Spanish) emerged after the 2016 Peace Agreement and is made up of former members of the FARC who did not demobilize but, rather, merged with drug trafficking groups (El Espectador, 17 April 2022). The CDF is present in regions of the Colombian Amazon, including the Nariño and Putumayo departments. The group controls coca-growing areas and cocaine and marijuana trafficking routes through the Putumayo and San Miguel rivers towards Ecuador and Brazil (InSight Crime, 8 July 2021). In the Cauca department, ELN members shot and killed three Indigenous men of the same family in Caldono municipality. They were relatives of an Indigenous social leader.

In Chile, voters overwhelmingly rejected a new national constitution during a referendum on 4 September, with 62% of voters rejecting the proposal (CNN, 5 September 2022). The defeated draft constitution was considered progressive and inclusive by many human rights organizations. Following the same-day release of the voting results, rioters took to the streets and erected barricades in the Providencia commune of Santiago, Metropolitana region. Violent demonstrations were also reported in other areas of the city in the following days. In addition, thousands of high school students took to the streets during the week of 5 September, demanding better school infrastructure and curriculum improvement (Biobío Chile, 6 September 2022). Clashes were reported between demonstrators and the police. On 6 September, demonstrations also took place in Santiago following President Gabriel Boric's announcement of his first cabinet change following the referendum rejection (Biobío Chile, 6 September 2022). The recent trends contribute to the 238% increase in violent events in the Metropolitana region over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker.

Elsewhere, Indigenous militia activity continued in the southern regions of Chile, with more than 20 arson attacks reported over the past month. On 24 August, Chilean police arrested Hector Llaitul, the most prominent leader of Coordination Arauco Malleco (CAM) --- a Mapuche militia --- on charges of timber theft (La Cuarta, 24 August 2022). The arrest triggered a series of arson attacks in the following days. In addition to events involving the destruction of private property and equipment from forestry companies, suspected Indigenous militias perpetrated at least six attacks against civilians over the past month, including farmers and forestry workers. In Biobío, hooded armed militiamen shot and severely injured a man before setting fire to his house and shed in Lanalhue commune. The Mapuche Lavkenche Resistance (RML) militia later claimed responsibility for the attack (*for more, see this ACLED analysis piece: *Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile).

Indigenous militia and rioter activity in Chile contributed to the 34% increase in weekly violent events in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year. ACLED's Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks.

In Bolivia, coca leaf farmers associated with the Departmental Association of Coca Producers (ADEPCOCA) market in La Paz city continued to stage demonstrations over the past month, demanding the closure of a parallel market controlled by government supporters. On 9 September, following weeks of violent demonstrations and clashes with the police, the farmers occupied and set fire to the market. The event took place after supporting farmers from the Yungas region marched for five days towards La Paz to join the demonstrations against the parallel market. ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in La Paz during the preceding four weeks.

In Venezuela, recent fluctuations in the local currency, the Bolívar, fueled discontent among the population over the past month, triggering demonstrations. Several labor groups, including farmers, transportation, and energy sector workers, took to the streets to decry the rising cost of living and fuel shortages. In addition, state workers staged protests over the past month to demand the full repeal of the National Budget Office (ONAPRE) instruction on salary scales. While the ONAPRE instruction has regulated payments for teachers, health personnel, and public sector employees since 2018, labor unions have recently denounced a series of payment calculation irregularities, which have negatively impacted their salaries (El Diario, 4 August 2022).

In Brazil, military parades took place on 7 September to celebrate 200 years of independence from Portugal. Along with traditional military parades, dozens of nationwide motorcades and rallies in support of President Bolsonaro were also reported, wherein Bolsonaro himself participated and called for his re-election in October. Some groups called for the resignation of the members of the Federal Supreme Court and military for allowing the parallel campaign rallies (Diario do Nordeste, 7 September 2022). Moreover, several politicians accused Bolsonaro of blurring the line between his official duties and his political campaign, leading party members to file a claim with the electoral court (Correio Braziliense, 7 September 2022). In contrast, nationwide anti-government demonstrations were also held on the same day, part of a so-called Cry of the Excluded (Grito dos Excluídos, in Portuguese) movement. The protesters aimed to draw attention to those who have been marginalized throughout the country's history (Agência Brasil, 7 September 2022).

Elsewhere, at least 13 people were reportedly killed during apparent drug trafficking-related attacks over the past month in Tocantins state. Several victims were found with signs of torture or execution, which points to the modus operandi of drug trafficking groups. In response to these attacks, local authorities have increased policing in so-called red zones, where crime rates are proportionally higher than average (G1, 27 August 2022). The state military police commander-in-chief also resigned amidst the wave of violence (G1, 27 August 2022). These trends contribute to the 117% increase in weekly violent events in Tocantins in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker. The Subnational Tracker also warned of increased violence in Tocantins during the preceding four weeks.

Similarly, territorial disputes over drug-trafficking control led to a series of clashes between gangs, and between gangs and state forces in Vitória city and other metropolitan areas in Espírito Santo state (Folha Vitoria, 1 August 2022). ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker warned of increased violence in Espírito Santo during the preceding four weeks.

Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.